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Occupational Portraits  • Mill Girl

The clues are very subtle, but a Lancashire woman wearing clogs and holding a shawl must be a Mill Girl.
Millgirl Initially this studio portrait seems fairly mundane, her hairstyle blouse and skirt belong to about 1912-13 or perhaps the early years of the Great War. The tartan shawl she carries is slightly unusual otherwise the photograph seems to tell us little. clogs

Industrial Clogs

Factory workers in the textile industries spent long hours standing. often on stone or concrete floors. Wooden soled shoes provided support and insulation. These clogs had uppers of leather nailed to a shaped wooden sole protected from wear by metal plates.
Because wood lacks flexibility the sole had a distinct curve to allow the wearer to walk with a rocking motion.
In the image above right you can see the from the way the toecap sits that these are clogs. It is unusual to see them worn in a studio photograph.


Cotton Mills especially benefitted from being cool and damp; one of the main reasons the industry developed in the county of Lancashire. Although most of the Millgirls probably owned overcoats they chose, partly from tradition and partly for practical reasons to go to work in a shawl. The factory-gate films taken by early cinematic photographers Mitchell & Kenyon of Blackburn, Lancashire illustrate just how prevalent the wearing of a shawl was among Mill girls.
Outdoors the Mill girls wore their shawls to cover their both head and shoulders.The few who took a hat to work wore the shawl to cover their shoulders.Practically no Mill workers male or female went bareheaded outside the factory.

Photograph top left by R.Harrison of Colne

The town of Colne in Lancashire, where the above photo was taken, had approximately thirty Cotton Mills.